1929 Marmon Roosevelt
The Nordyke & Marmon Company later known as Marmon Motor Car Company was prolific and innovative from its start in producing automobiles. Since the firm’s founding in 1851, it was known for its engineering prowess. It first established its reputation as a builder of flour milling machinery before the company’s first automobile sprang from the mind of Howard C. Marmon.
Nordyke & Marmon’s factory showroom was in a 19th century commercial building at the southwest corner of New York and Meridian streets in the mid 1910’s. Plant 1 was at the southwest corner of Kentucky Avenue and West Morris Street. Plant 2 was constructed at the southwest corner of Drover and West York streets. Plant 3, completed in 1919, is the five-story structure measuring 80 x 600 feet parallel to Morris Street between Kentucky Avenue and Harding Street (now Eli Lilly and Company’s Building 314). The single story Marmon Assembly Plant was built adjacent to the Morris Street property line with Plant 3 behind and parallel to it (also part of the Eli Lilly complex).
Howard C. Marmon’s first production car for Nordyke and Marmon Company was remarkably progressive for 1905. It featured an overhead valve, air-cooled, two-cylinder, 90-degree V configuration engine with pressure lubrication. Marmon’s design was the earliest automotive application of a system that became universal to internal combustion piston engine.
In 1906, Marmon was ahead of its time. The company could be classified as one of the first fully integrated auto manufacturers in America. Most of the other large manufacturers were providing specifications of major components to be built by other firms.
Early on, Marmon recognized that weight was the enemy in car design. His early automobiles featured cast aluminum bodies, which weighed substantially less than other makes. The effectiveness of a lighter body was proven in 1911 with a six-cylinder racing model named the Marmon Wasp. This car, driven by Ray Harroun, won the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
The 1916 introduction of the Model 34 marked one of the first examples of styling the car as a complete entity versus the standard practice of component styling. The 1929 Marmon Roosevelt had the distinction of being the first eight-cylinder car in the world to sell for less than $1,000.
The most recognizable of Marmon’s creations was the Marmon Sixteen with its magnificent 491 c.i.d., 200 h.p., V-16 engine. The Marmon Sixteen was the largest American passenger car engine of its era. In February 1931, before production started on the Sixteen, the Society of Automotive Engineers honored Marmon’s huge and gleaming V-16 engine design as “the most notable engineering achievement of 1930.”
Marmon’s cumulative production from 1902 to 1933 approached 110,000 autos. The mid-point of producing 55,000 autos was reached at the end of the 1927 model year. In 1929 and 1930, Marmon production exceeded Cadillac in the luxury market. A number of automotive enthusiasts over the years have praised the prolific and innovative Marmon as a fine automobile.